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Joseph Le Pluart EnC

NV3b Fluvial Processes

Fluvial Processes

Fluvial processes as a subject contains everything from erosion on the riverbed to why a beach

constantly changes its shape. It explains the existence of fluvial landforms, such as waterfalls,

rivers, deltas, canyons and valleys. Fluvial processes consists of the motions of sediment and

erosions on the riverbed known as hydraulic action.

The most commonly known type of erosion is abrasion which is caused by sediments, small

particles and gravel moving along the current. As the sediment is transported by the water it

constantly collides with its surroundings and as a result it is ground down, constantly becoming

smaller and more rounded. Whilst the sediment is carried downstream it causes erosion on the

riverbed and its sides. Where the current from the river is calmer, the stream allows the sediment to

sink to the bottom thus creating sandbanks.

The Gully

A gully is created when running water erodes sharply into the ground resembling large ditches or
Joseph Le Pluart EnC
NV3b Fluvial Processes

even small valleys. The falling angle of the river has to be steep in order to accomplish a velocity

high enough for the water to cut into the ground. Gullies are therefore often seen on muddy hillsides

where the ground is soft enough in order for the water to break the soil loose.

Gullies are usually no more than a couple of meters wide but can be tens of meters in depth. Once

the vegetation is cleared the stream can easily cut its way through the ground. In some cases the

vegetation is removed from the hill slopes through deforestation or over-grazing, which results in a

gully when the next thunderstorm inevitably arrives.

Due to the gully's destructive force, their often problematic location is worsened since the muddy

hillsides are commonly used by farmers. Much effort is made to prevent them from forming. The

prevention and restoration of gullied landscapes annually costs local farmers an inconvenient

amount of money. The precaution has to be done thoroughly since gullies causes ineffective farming

and are dangerous for their stocks.

The River Delta

River Deltas are formed at the river's mouth when the river runs into an ocean or a lake. There are

several ways for a river to create the characteristic delta shape and all of them include disposing of

sediment. The name of the phenomenon was given by the ancient Greek philosopher Herodotus

who thought the delta had the shape of the Greek letter Δ named delta.

One way for the deltas to form is when the river meets the ocean or when the stream weakens. Due

to the reduction of the water's force when the narrow channel of the river is opening up to the

ocean, the sediment loses speed and sinks to the riverbed, making the river more shallow and the
Joseph Le Pluart EnC
NV3b Fluvial Processes

falling angle flatter. When the rivers grows more shallow it also broadens and tries to find different

paths that will provide a steeper angle, resulting in several “branches” of tiny streams. With time

these streams grow and form the characteristic delta form.

A second way for the river to create a delta is when the sediment does not spread out evenly on the

riverbed but instead starts to pile up, where the stream hits the water and is slowed down. The pile

becomes an island and forces the river to stream around it. When several of these islands are formed

the delta shape is produced.

The Meander

A meander is a bend in the river or any kind of sinuous

watercourse. Meanders are seldom alone but are however

accompanied by several other meanders, thus creating

what people commonly call a “serpent river” which

crawls over the land. A river does not have meanders

from the beginning and are therefore created by a

variation in the waters velocity.

Joseph Le Pluart EnC
NV3b Fluvial Processes

The ground is never perfectly flat nor are the rivers walls perfectly straight, so there are therefore

areas in which the water does not stream as fast. In these areas, the sediment tends to sink and

create sandbanks. The sandbanks force the water to the other side of the river in order to run faster.

When the water builds up speed it begins to erode on the rivers wall thus breaking loose the

sediment. This allows more sediment to sink where the stream is weak, once again forcing the water

on the other side to run faster. As the process continues a bend is created, with sediment sinking on

the inside and water eroding on the outside.

The Oxbow lake

An oxbow lake is created when a meander becomes so large that

the water tries to create a short cut over the bend, firstly creating

an island. But since it is much more effective for the water to

stream through the new shorter path the water therefore runs

slowly and without force in the old one. The sediment sinks where

the water runs slowly and builds up a wall to the old stream thus

creating an oxbow lake.

The Waterfall

A waterfall consists of a plateau made of hard rocks surrounded by soft rocks or mud. A waterfall is

formed because the hard rock erodes much slower than the soft rock which therefore causes a height

difference between the materials. As a result from the water plunging downwards, there is always a

deep pool directly under the waterfall. There is also an undercutting under the waterfall made by the
Joseph Le Pluart EnC
NV3b Fluvial Processes

slashing water that erodes on the softer material under the plateau.

Facts gotten from Kristoffer Creutz, my old teacher in geography.

And complementary facts from

Picture Gully:

Picture Delta:

Picture Meander:

Picture Oxbow lake (animated):